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Intel expects Apple to transition to ARM (1 Viewer)

Carlo Medina

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To further expand, I think I mentioned in the new iPad Pro thread that the current A12X processor is the first one that benchmarked as well as the Intel CPU used in the Macbook Pro 13".

Using the same CPU architecture will allow Apple to unify and streamline code between iOS and MacOS, something that is essential to having interoperability for apps between the two systems.

It's 2006 all over again (when Apple moved from Motorola to Intel CPUs).
 

Sam Posten

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Except the rules of the game have changed. Intel has hit the limit of Moore's law and performance per watt (PPW) as far as their architecture goes. ARM still has headroom they can squeeze and Apple can influence the ARM architecture in ways that Intel will never allow. Plus bringing the CPU and GPU into much closer alignment.

Apple rode the Intel train as far as they could. They will do the same with ARM for a while, but even that will have its limits.

The thing to take from this is that Apple is WAY smarter about software and silicone relationships than anyone else on the planet. Nobody else is even close.
 

DaveF

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This is going to be interesting.

I’ve been guessing the MacBook Air will be the first retail Mac to go ARM. But I have no guesses for dev hardware
 

Carlo Medina

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I'm genuinely curious about the performance of ARM hardware.

I have a 2015 15" MPB and a 2019 16" MBP. Both the mid-line with CPU upgrade at the time of purchase. Obviously on power-hungry tasks, the speed difference is noticeable (though heat is still a major problem). But for the personal and work tasks that I use the computer for 99% of the time, the difference is negligible in terms of speed and performance (the screen and keyboard are obviously nicer on the 16"). Despite clean installs on both and fast SSD performance, there is little palpable difference in launching and running the vast majority of programs that don't involve heavy-duty image editing of large/batch files, high def video transcoding/editing, or music creation requiring more than, say 64 tracks (which I never exceed as I'm not a pro musician).

I was beginning to wonder if for most tasks, the CPU improvement is essentially stalled because of the law of diminishing returns. Or perhaps it's Intel's architecture that has stalled. We'll find out when the ARM machines start coming out.
 

DaveF

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I'm genuinely curious about the performance of ARM hardware.
As has been reported the past couple years, A-series CPUs have been overtaking intel’s CPUs.

And Intel speed increases have been incremental the past decade. 5% a year type increase. Long gone are the 18 month doubling days.

Daring Fireball: The 2020 iPad Pros
The A13 is faster in single-core performance than even the Core i9 16-inch MacBook Pro
 

Carlo Medina

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Oh yeah I've been quoting those benchmarks for a while now. What I'm curious about though is that all this code needs to be compiled to run on ARM architecture. So I'm more interested in the "end result" than benchmark numbers.
 

DaveF

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Oh yeah I've been quoting those benchmarks for a while now. What I'm curious about though is that all this code needs to be compiled to run on ARM architecture. So I'm more interested in the "end result" than benchmark numbers.
How do you mean?

Are you talking about the difference between synthetic benchmarking and real-world user experience? Or concerns that native mac software will be slower on ARM than on Intel? Or hopes that it will be even faster still?

Given what Apple does for image processing and AI in hardware for the iphone, if they control the CPU / GPU architecture for the Mac, could there be new and useful hardware design customizations in future laptops / desktops that weren't possible with Intel CPUs and AMD GPUs?
 

Carlo Medina

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What I mean is that my 2019 16" MBP, for most tasks, feels identical to my 2015 MBP. And things which I'd expect to launch much faster (MS Office Suite, Slack, Zoom) and just the overall OS, are faster on my Windows PC. Now I will admit it's a pretty powerful PC, but given how little difference there is in launching those programs between my 2015 and 2019 MBPs...my suspicion is "it's as fast as it's gonna be on Mac OS's Intel architecture" if that makes any sense. Outside of comparing it to my desktop PC, which I understand could be unfair, if there were gains to be made in the OS load speed and app launch it should have been fairly noticeable between my two MBPs. Especially since one is clearly more powerful than the other when I run complex tasks like large Logic Pro sessions, which go much smoother on my '19 than my '15.

Yet the overall OS load and launch of small-to-medium size programs seems to be much faster on my Win10 desktop. So my curiosity is, will a MacOS X ARM version run faster than the Mac OS X Intel version (since the code will have to be recompiled and theoretically I assume optimized for the ARM chipset architecture). Will an ARM MacOS feel "snappier/faster" than the Intel MacOS?
 

DaveF

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I'm curious how fast your PC is. On my 2017 imac, Zoom launches in 2 seconds. Not instant, but fast. To be appreciably faster, I think it would need to be fractional seconds. Which maybe your PC does. Word launches in about five seconds, which could definitely be faster.

I also don't know if you're comparing apples to oranges. I don't know how a "pretty powerful PC" compares to a laptop, Windows or macOS. (I'm really divorced from Windows performance: my home windows HTPC is for media, no office use. And office Windows PCs I deal with are abysmal, the worst computers I've used in 20 years.)

It might be that macos doesn't get faster in the short term. For laptops, there might be better battery life. For desktops, who knows. Battery life, size, mass, none of that really matters. But given the pace of Apple's ARM chips compared to Intel, it doesnt' seem a stretch to expect them to overtake Intel performance in the mid-range systems in a year or two, and for that to show up in the user experience.
 

DaveF

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Carlo Medina

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To be clear, I'm not trying to directly compare my MBP to my Win10 machine. Those programs may be optimized to run on Win10. And yes, it's near instantaneous on my Win10 desktop (probably has to do with the speed of the M.2 SSD coupled with the throughput of the Z270 chipset and the i7-8700K CPU).

What I'm saying is this: if there was anything to be gained in launch of the MacOS speed (which I find to be considerably slower than 10, even when I bootcamp on my '15 MBP) and the programs, they would have shown themselves between the '15 MBP and the '19 MBP. Because as I mentioned, doing load intensive tasks shows a big difference. So to me, the main architecture of Mac OSX is running as fast as it can right now on my 2 machines. Even the SSD is supposed to be markedly faster on my '19 than the '15, but again, on normal startup and task launch you couldn't really tell.

So I'm wondering if OSX is just behind Win10 in speed overall, or if an ARM compiled OSX could at least feel faster. Who knows. We'll find out some time in the near future.
 

DaveF

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Apple will announce a Developer Transition Kit at WWDC, which will be available this summer. The DTK will use an A12Z (the current iPad Pro SoC), inside a Mac mini chassis. Or, I think less likely, an Apple TV chassis with added I/O.

I don’t think it will be a laptop: that would require full power management to be implemented, would be more expensive, and would result in battery life figures for semi-prototype hardwarebeing reported all over the press. That’s really not how Apple rolls.

The iPad Pro will not be usable as a DTK. John Gruber described the reasons better than I can, but in summary: not enough RAM, and it confuses these (still separate!) products in a way that Apple never publicly would.

The first ARM Macs will go on sale in February 2021. The MacBook Air will be part of the first tranche of ARM Macs released, along with the possible return of the 12” MacBook. With the first ARM Macs, Apple will want to surprise with the power and efficiency made possible by their custom SoCs, and laptops will be the best showcase for that.

Also like the Intel switch, this will not be a long and drawn-out transition. My prediction is that by October 2022, Apple will no longer sell Intel Macs.
 

Sam Posten

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DaveF

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ahem... :D
 

Carlo Medina

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So...to talk about "the other" party to this thread topic...Intel.

They've known for several years now Apple's interested in migrating towards their own chips. They let AMD straight leapfrog them in high-end gaming performance. A foe they considered (and to be fair, most of the PC gaming community agreed) vanquished in the early to mid-2000s is now not just back, but actually churning out better and less expensive products. And they've already lost gaming console architecture, as both the current gen PS4 and Xbox One (all variants) run AMD architecture, as will the PS5 and Xbox One Series X (great not-confusing-at-all branding there, Microsoft!).

How in a few short years did Intel go from near total market domination to their current place? I mean, they're not irrelevant by any means, but it's rare to see a titan of the industry give up so much ground so quickly.

This is more just an open question/musings on my part. I am not an Intel fanboy or stockholder. I fully support the most powerful and most reliable chips at competitive prices, and if that's AMD, so be it!
 

AndyMcKinney

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As long as they don't replace MacOS with iOS on Macs. If they do that, I'll be majorly ticked-off. I don't want a cell-phone OS on my Mac. I have work to get done.
 

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